Friday, November 23, 2007

Fascistic British social workers again

Mother-to-be flees as social workers warn her they will take her baby away at birth

A mother-to-be has fled her home after social workers threatened to take her baby within minutes of the birth. Fran Lyon, 22, hopes a new local authority will take a different approach. She insists that the mental health problems she had as a teenager - she started self-harming at 15 and has been treated at psychiatric hospitals for borderline personality disorder - are now behind her and there is no evidence she will harm her child.

Miss Lyon moved out of Hexham after receiving a copy of her "birth plan" from social services at Northumberland County Council. It says she will be given a maximum of 15 minutes with her baby - who she has already named Molly - before she is taken into care. She is now in the Birmingham Yardley constituency of Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming, who has taken up her case and is campaigning to overturn the decision. Miss Lyon said she had been hounded out of her home by a "barbaric" decision and felt she had no choice but to move if she is to have any chance of keeping her baby.

She added: "It is a sad indictment of a local authority in the way they have dealt with an expectant mother who has tried to co-operate with some of the most extreme measures imaginable."

Miss Lyon said social workers fear she is likely to develop Munchausen's syndrome by proxy. The controversial condition is said to lead mothers to seek attention by harming their child or claiming it is ill. "I have been told that I am not even to breastfeed my child in case I try to poison her," she said. "As far as I am concerned, the birth plan is abusive and I will just not stand for it. It would leave Molly isolated from anybody who loves her from the first few minutes of her life. It is barbaric and it deprives her of a basic right." She hopes Birmingham City Council will review the case, but admitted: "I don't know what's going to happen. It's a waiting game at the moment."

Miss Lyon became involved with social services in July after a domestic incident involving her former partner. At a subsequent meeting, she revealed her history of mental health problems and was told they would be taking action to remove her child once she is born in January.

Munchausen's - first identified by Sir Roy Meadow during the 1970s - has been at the heart of a series of miscarriages of justice. Sir Roy was responsible for evidence that led to the wrongful convictions of Angela Cannings and Sally Clark for murdering their children. Mrs Clark died earlier this year.

Miss Lyon has appealed for a place in a mother and baby unit so she can look after her child under supervision. Northumberland County Council said last night: "Where a child or unborn baby is subject to a child protection plan and they move to another local authority area, responsibility would normally pass to the new authority. "A transfer conference is arranged as soon as possible and the family and their support are usually invited to attend. The existing plan is discussed, but the new authority makes its own decisions about how to proceed. "Northumberland County Council would make sure the new authority has all the relevant information it needs to make informed decisions."

Mr Hemming is chairman of the Justice for Families organisation and believes councils are now taking more babies to meet Government adoption targets. He said of Miss Lyon's case: "What could be more traumatic than for a mother to have her baby taken away at birth? It's monstrous. "That, in itself, can cause mental health problems which are then used by social services against the mother as a reason not to return the baby. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. "There has been a massive increase in younger babies being taken into care before there is even any evidence of harm."


Gordon Brown's state of terror

The UK prime minister's vision for counterterrorism would involve reorganising the whole of society around precaution and fear

The British prime minister's announcement of new security measures, and his promotion of wide-ranging new partnerships to root out extremism in the United Kingdom, confirms that counterterrorism is fast becoming one of the main organising principles of society in the twenty-first century.

Gordon Brown used the annual security statement to parliament to announce a wide range of new proposals for combating terrorism. In a packed House of Commons, he presented both hard measures - increased surveillance, checks, barriers and monitoring - as well as softer ones designed to win the hearts and minds of those who might be tempted by terror.

On the same day, a related article by him in the tabloid Sun newspaper, entitled `I need YOUR help to beat terrorists', sought to drive the message home. This was, he proposed, `a generation-long challenge', that would require a partnership `with everyone'. He concluded, for those who had still not absorbed the breadth or gravity of the situation, with a piece of over-inflated, pseudo-Churchillian prose exhorting us to `fight street by street, community by community and year by year'.

But his actual proposals look anything but brave or combative. Rather, they are a concession and a gift to the handful of nihilistic, self-styled, radical Islamists, fantasists and wannabe terrorists whose actual impact on British life, were it not for such grandiose and vacuous security responses, remains largely marginal. In fact, Brown's mantra on the need for `physical barriers' is the perfect metaphor for the authorities' inability to tackle this limited threat either intellectually or emotionally. Unwilling to believe that the nation is not about to crumble in a heap of cowering vulnerability, and unable to provide any grand vision of why British society is worth defending, Brown hides behind steel doors and blast-proof windows.

Last summer, after failed attempts by alleged al-Qaeda sympathisers to detonate gas canisters at a London nightclub and Glasgow Airport, the new prime minister, less than 24 hours in the post, asked the former head of defence intelligence and the Navy, Sir Alan West, to conduct a review of security in public places. Sir Alan's report back, now in his new capacity as Labour minister for security, formed a key part of these proposals, arguing, amongst other things, for the designing, or redesigning, of public spaces and buildings - specifically airports, major railway stations, shopping centres and sports facilities - to deter future terrorists, or to mitigate their possible impact.

As I have argued on spiked before, this focus on managing risks, rather than projecting a sense of positive purpose, reflects a defeatist attitude that can only encourage those who would want to have a go. This outlook deflects society from clarifying and pursuing any grand broader aims and objectives (see Britain's bunker mentality, by Bill Durodi,). Turning ourselves into some kind of Fortress Britain offers an easy win to the small number of cack-handed idiots we truly confront. Bombing civilisation out of existence is an impossible task, but turning society in on itself has been achieved far too easily.

Now, according to the new proposals, planners and architects will be required to consider their designs from a counterterrorist perspective, relocating windows to reduce the risk should they shatter, placing obstacles on pavements to prevent vehicle-borne devices and not building underground car parks - a restriction guaranteed to warm the heart of many environmentalists. In fact, such buildings have successfully been designed previously. They were called castles. But whilst functional, they were never the emblems of a free and open society such as ours.

Such measures have not been forced upon us through the activities of hardened terrorists - the prime minister noted in his speech that `no major failures in our protective security have been identified'. It is the new ethos of precaution that has been adopted throughout government that is driving these proposals. In effect, this argues that in all instances of uncertainty or doubt, society should be reorganised along the lines of the worst that might happen, applying an `act first, find the evidence later' principle of organisation.

Far from suffering from `a failure of imagination', the criticism levelled at the US security services by the 9/11 Commission report, it would seem now that officials and politicians seem keen to imagine rather too much. `Terrorism can hit us anywhere from any place', argued Brown in the Sun. As such limitless possibilities might mean attacks beyond the major public buildings and places his security minister's report addressed, the prime minister, in his speech to the Commons, also offered `updates', `more detailed advice' and `greater vigilance' for other, less prominent places, such as shops, schools, hospitals and places of religious worship.

This support will be backed up by guidance and training from 160 counter-terrorism advisers who will clearly have very busy jobs. To help them in their thankless task of spreading the Gospel of Doom across the entire nation, local authorities will also now be mandated, as part of their performance framework, to assess the measures they have taken to counter terrorism. Judging by the way such targets tend to be usurped by those who are called upon to enact them, it is likely that any minor act, such as watering the hanging flower baskets that adorn many city centres, will now be counted as a possible opportunity for deterring terror.

More insidiously, Brown hopes to engage young people in opposing so-called `extremist influences' not just in schools and colleges - which, over recent years, have already been turned into social engineering outlets - but also `through the media, culture, sport and arts'. The British Library, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Sport England, Tate Britain and Arts Council England have already signed up to such initiatives.

Once upon a time, it was just the former education secretary, Charles Clarke, who thought that `education for its own sake is a bit dodgy'. Now, it appears, Gordon Brown and others are proposing we all go much further than that. Culture for its own sake, sport for its own sake and the arts for their own sake, without a good dose of anti-radicalisation thrown in for good measure, are all a bit dodgy, too, it would seem.

In short, British society is to be reorganised around precaution and the fear of terrorism. Everything we do, from the buildings we use to the ideas that are taught, will be informed by the risk of a handful of nihilistic nutters blowing us all to smithereens. Society will be built - often literally - in fear of the uncommon enemy rather than to further the common good.

A youth panel to advise the government was also announced. By this logic, it is the government that is in need of support. That may not be too far from the truth. Lord West has already had to make an embarrassing U-turn regarding his endorsement, or not, for longer periods of detention without trial. West explained away his unfortunate public disagreement with the prime minister as the act of a `simple sailor'.

While the UK government is keen on advising President Musharraf of Pakistan as to the need to end his state of emergency, the British authorities will nevertheless seek to use their own set of emergency powers to achieve the goal of holding suspects without charge for longer than is currently allowed. Without some kind of permanent emergency in Britain today, there would be little to talk about.


Here come the thought police

With overwhelming bipartisan support, Rep. Jane Harman's "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act" passed the House 404-6 late last month and now rests in Sen. Joe Lieberman's Homeland Security Committee. Swift Senate passage appears certain. Not since the "Patriot Act" of 2001 has any bill so threatened our constitutionally guaranteed rights.

The historian Henry Steele Commager, denouncing President John Adams' suppression of free speech in the 1790s, argued that the Bill of Rights was not written to protect government from dissenters but to provide a legal means for citizens to oppose a government they didn't trust. Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence not only proclaimed the right to dissent but declared it a people's duty, under certain conditions, to alter or abolish their government. In that vein, diverse groups vigorously oppose Ms. Harman's effort to stifle dissent. Unfortunately, the mainstream press and leading presidential candidates remain silent.

Ms. Harman, a California Democrat, thinks it likely that the United States will face a native brand of terrorism in the immediate future and offers a plan to deal with ideologically based violence. But her plan is a greater danger to us than the threats she fears. Her bill tramples constitutional rights by creating a commission with sweeping investigative power and a mandate to propose laws prohibiting whatever the commission labels "homegrown terrorism."

The proposed commission is a menace through its power to hold hearings, take testimony and administer oaths, an authority granted to even individual members of the commission - little Joe McCarthys - who will tour the country to hold their own private hearings. An aura of authority will automatically accompany this congressionally authorized mandate to expose native terrorism.

Ms. Harman's proposal includes an absurd attack on the Internet, criticizing it for providing Americans with "access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda," and legalizes an insidious infiltration of targeted organizations. The misnamed "Center of Excellence," which would function after the commission is disbanded in 18 months, gives the semblance of intellectual research to what is otherwise the suppression of dissent.

While its purpose is to prevent terrorism, the bill doesn't criminalize any specific conduct or contain penalties. But the commission's findings will be cited by those who see a terrorist under every bed and who will demand enactment of criminal penalties that further restrict free speech and other civil liberties. Action contrary to the commission's findings will be interpreted as a sign of treason at worst or a lack of patriotism at the least.

While Ms. Harman denies that her proposal creates "thought police," it defines "homegrown terrorism" as "planned" or "threatened" use of force to coerce the government or the people in the promotion of "political or social objectives." That means that no force need actually have occurred as long as the government charges that the individual or group thought about doing it. Any social or economic reform is fair game. Have a march of 100 or 100,000 people to demand a reform - amnesty for illegal immigrants or overturning Roe v. Wade - and someone can perceive that to be a use of force to intimidate the people, courts or government.

The bill defines "violent radicalization" as promoting an "extremist belief system." But American governments, state and national, have a long history of interpreting radical "belief systems" as inevitably leading to violence to facilitate change. Examples of the resulting crackdowns on such protests include the conviction and execution of anarchists tied to Chicago's 1886 Haymarket Riot. Hearings conducted by the House Un-American Activities Committee for several decades during the Cold War and the solo hearings by a member of that committee's Senate counterpart, Joseph McCarthy, demonstrate the dangers inherent in Ms. Harman's legislation.

Ms. Harman denies that her bill is a threat to the First Amendment. It clearly states that no measure to prevent homegrown terrorism should violate "constitutional rights, civil rights or civil liberties."


Nancy Pelosi tries to force the Salvation Army to hire people who can't speak English

It's been less than a week since New York's Sen. Hillary Clinton and Gov. Eliot Spitzer had to climb down from their support of driver's licenses for illegal aliens. Now House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has moved to kill an amendment that would protect employers from federal lawsuits for requiring their workers to speak English. Among the employers targeted by such lawsuits: the Salvation Army.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, a moderate Republican from Tennessee, is dumbstruck that legislation he views as simple common sense would be blocked. He noted that the full Senate passed his amendment to shield the Salvation Army by 75-19 last month, and the House followed suit with a 218-186 vote just this month. "I cannot imagine that the framers of the 1964 Civil Rights Act intended to say that it's discrimination for a shoe shop owner to say to his or her employee, 'I want you to be able to speak America's common language on the job,' " he told the Senate last Thursday.

But that's exactly what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is trying to do. In March the EEOC sued the Salvation Army because its thrift store in Framingham, Mass., required its employees to speak English on the job. The requirement was clearly posted and employees were given a year to learn the language. The EEOC claimed the store had fired two Hispanic employees for continuing to speak Spanish on the job. It said that the firings violated the law because the English-only policy was not "relevant" to job performance or safety.

"If it is not relevant, it is discriminatory, it is gratuitous, it is a subterfuge to discriminate against people based on national origin," says Rep. Charles Gonzalez of Texas, one of several Hispanic Democrats in the House who threatened to block Ms. Pelosi's attempts to curtail the Alternative Minimum Tax unless she killed the Alexander amendment.

The confrontation on the night of Nov. 8 was ugly. Members of the Hispanic Caucus initially voted against the rule allowing debate on a tax bill that included the AMT "patch," which for a year would protect some 23 million Americans from being kicked into a higher income tax bracket.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a moderate from Maryland, was beside himself. Congressional Quarterly reports that he jabbed his finger on the House floor at Joe Baca, the California Democrat who chairs the Hispanic Caucus, and yelled, "How dare you destroy this party? This will be the worst loss in 10 years."

Mr. Baca was having none of it. "You see this on the [voting] board?," he yelled back. "This is against me. This is against me personally." Luckily for Democrats, C-Span's microphones did not pick up the exchange. But it was audible to reporters in the press gallery. They also heard Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois say that English-only efforts were symbolic of "bigotry and prejudice" against those who speak other languages.

After testy negotiations, the Hispanic Caucus finally agreed to let the tax bill proceed after extracting a promise from Ms. Pelosi that the House will not vote on the bill funding the Justice and Commerce Departments unless the English-only protection language is dropped. "There ain't going to be a bill" with the Alexander language, Mr. Baca has told reporters.

Sen. Alexander says that if that's the case, "thousands of small businesses across America will have to show there is some special reason to justify requiring their employees to speak our country's common language on the job." He notes that the number of EEOC actions against English-only policies grew to some 200 last year from 32 a decade ago. In an attempt at compromise, he has offered watered-down language that would still allow the EEOC to file many actions, but he says House Democrats rejected it.

Mr. Alexander says his battle is about far more than what language is spoken on a shop floor. "The EEOC actions turn diversity, our greatest strength, against the interests of our common future as Americans," he told me.

The late Albert Shanker, head of the American Federation of Teachers, once pointed out that public schools were established in this country largely "to help mostly immigrant children learn the three R's and what it means to be an American, with the hope that they would go home and teach their parents the principles in the Constitution and the Declaration that unite us."

Mr. Alexander says that noble effort is in danger of being undermined: "We have spent the last 40 years in our country celebrating diversity at the expense of unity. One way to create that unity is to value, not devalue, our common language, English."

The battle over Mr. Alexander's amendment is about whether a consensus that used to unite liberals and conservatives in this country can continue to hold. If it can't, expect the issue to become a flashpoint in the 2008 elections. Republicans have their political problems with Hispanics over some of their approaches to illegal immigration, but they may be nothing compared to the problems Democrats have if they continue to cave in to their anti-assimilation extremists.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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